Social outbreaks, chaotic transitions of power, polarization, corruption, strong-arm policies, repression and violence.
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Immersed in a decadent trend, democracy in Latin America suffered a new setback in 2022 and is on “an increasingly dark path towards autocracy,” according to the latest report from The Economist Intelligence Unit.
While democracy at a global level is in a period of stagnation, with a minimal improvement compared to the previous year due to the increase in freedoms due to the relaxation of coronavirus restrictions, the report carried out annually by the British magazine warns about the decline in the democratic quality of Latin American countries for the seventh consecutive year.
The region’s score fell from an average of 5.83 in 2021 to 5.79 in 2022.
The 45% of the Latin American population does not reside in a democracy and, on the contrary, lives under some kind of hybrid regime or authoritarian regime, the study considered, a percentage that far exceeds the barely 4% of Latin Americans who live in a full democracy.
There is a risk that the list of autocracies in the region will increase, as several countries are experiencing a process of democratic rollback
One of the main threats to democracy in Latin America is the limited capacity of the State, which results – with some exceptions – in a low level of trust among Latin Americans in the institutions, the report indicates.
The growth of organized crime and drug trafficking networks, even in model countries like Uruguay or Chile, they trigger crime levels and weaken the capacities of governments.
This is evident in the case of Haiti – the worst regional setback – which has not been able to recover from the assassination of Jovenel Moïse in 2021 and is fertile ground for the control of the gangs.
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The Economist’s “Democracy Index” judges democratic quality in 167 countries -which cover the majority of the world’s population- based on five indicators: electoral process and pluralism, government functioning, political participation, democratic political culture and freedoms.
This is how he builds a ranking in which he qualifies each country based on their results, in which Norway leads once again, with a score of 9.81 (out of 10) and which places Afghanistan in last place, with 0, 32 points.
Under this classification, Only three Latin American countries are part of the limited group of 24 full democracies in the world. Uruguay is ranked 11th worldwide and is the regional leader thanks to its democratic quality.
It is followed by Costa Rica (17) and Chile (19), which managed to ascend to “full democracy” after being relegated to the category of “imperfect democracy” in 2021.
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risk of authoritarianism
Nine Latin American countries, including Argentina, are imperfect democracies and eight are considered hybrid regimes. Argentina was ranked 50 globally, the same as last year, and sixth in the region, below Panama (fifth) and above Brazil (seventh).
While, Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela are the four countries under authoritarian governments. But “there is a risk that the list of autocracies in the region will increase, since several countries are experiencing a process of democratic regression,” the research warns.
The clearest example mentioned in the report is El Salvador, which suffered the second greatest setback in its democratic quality in the region, after Haiti. Both countries, along with Mexico, were the engines that led to the regional decline.
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The Salvadoran president, Nayib Bukele, is going through his fourth year in government with a tremendous popularity, with 87.8% of Salvadorans in favor of his management.
This has allowed it to overcome checks and balances with ease, which has raised alarm bells in the international community.
Among the measures that reveal his authoritarian side, Bukele announced in September 2022 that he will seek re-election in the 2024 elections, an option historically prohibited in the Magna Carta, but that it was approved by the judges of the Supreme Court of Justice, installed in the post by himself.
In addition, the Central American leader accumulates countless complaints from international organizations that accuse him of perpetrating human rights violations and harassing the opposition.
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(It is evident) an extreme polarization and a high tolerance to the military government
As part of his heavy-handed plan to end gangs involved in drug trafficking and organized crime, Bukele extended the state of emergency for the tenth time in Januarywhich limits individual liberties and enables arrests without a warrant.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) denounced the existence of “massive violations of procedural guarantees, serious overcrowding in prisons and deaths in custody” in the country.
This Wednesday, Bukele inaugurated the “largest prison in America”, where he plans to lock up 40,000 suspected gang members.
The analysis of the British magazine also warns about the case of Mexico, a hybrid regime in a “democratic regression process under the presidency of Andrés Manuel López Obrador”, accused of expanding the role of the armed forces in areas of government such as security. public and the economy.
He also pointed out the controversial electoral reform approved by the pro-government majority of the Mexican Senate in December, which reduced the budget and structure of the independent electoral body.
Added to this are the attacks against freedom of expression in the second largest country in the region, where 13 journalists were murdered in 2022 and where intelligence services spy on activists, the text detailed.
Peru is another of the countries that experienced a slight setback in its average score, which earned it relegation to the category of “hybrid regime” after its weak democracy was cracked by the coup attempt by former President Pedro Castillo.
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Social unrest persists in the streets of the Andean country, where massive protests – in which at least 48 deaths occurred – demand the resignation of President Dina Boluarte and the call for early elections.
The decline in Peru’s democratic quality “also reflects an increasingly unstable political environment that has brought six presidents to power and three different congresses ruling the country since 2016.” In addition, there is evidence of “extreme polarization and high tolerance of the military government”deepens the report.
The success stories are due to the resilience of democratic institutions, after two polarized and crucial elections for the region in Brazil and Colombia.
The three powers in Brazil managed to weather the brutal attack by Bolsonaro supporters, who were demanding a coup, while President Gustavo Petro “opened the doors for the parties of the center to join the governing coalition” in Colombia.
In Chile, the government of Gabriel Boric had to moderate and move closer to the center after the overwhelming rejection of the constitutional reform in September 2022, and most of the political parties reached an agreement to carry out a second process, which “reduced the high levels of political polarization,” the report concluded.
Lucia Sol Miguel
THE NATION (ARGENTINA) / GDA
* Grupo de Diarios América (GDA), to which EL TIEMPO belongs, is a leading media network founded in 1991, which promotes democratic values, the independent press and freedom of expression in Latin America through quality journalism for our hearings.
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